CAMPAIGNERS against HS2 have slammed the decision to give the go-ahead to the controversial line.
It has this morning (Tuesday) been announced the entire high speed line from London to Birmingham, then on to Manchester and Leeds will go ahead. Prime minster Boris Johnson is set to make a statement this afternoon.
But the Stop HS2 campaign says it is ‘incomprehensible’ the project will proceed before an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office is completed. It followed allegations of corruption into the award of contracts and defrauding home and landowners by undervaluing properties.
Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin, who has been among protesters in Cubbington trying to halt contractors cutting down trees, said: “It is absolutely incomprehensible that a decision could be made on HS2 without knowing if it has been fuelled by fraud.
“If the Serious Fraud Office were to find evidence of impropriety and malfeasance within HS2 Ltd, their contractors or the Civil Service, the prime minister would have effectively offered himself up as a human shield.”
The entire line will be built but it is understood government will seek a review of the second phase covering the north.
A review into the line found costs had rocketed and it was set to cost nearly double original estimates, coming in at around £106million.
The review found the first stage would be completed between 2028 and 2031. The original scheduled date was 2026.
In Warwickshire 54 kilometres is set to cut through the countryside. Campaigners have been camping out in Crackley Woods in Kenilworth and Cubbington Woods in a bid to prevent contractors carrying out preliminary works on the line.
The Taxpayers Alliance says the project is not value for money.
A spokesman told the Observer: “This announcement is a massive blow to the taxpayers of today and tomorrow who will be left paying for the HS2 white elephant with no light at the end of the tunnel.
“The business case for HS2 was flawed from the start, offering little benefit to anyone outside the big cities, and nobody can comfortably say what the final bill will be.
“Going forward the government needs to stop HS2 Ltd calling the shots and work out how to keep costs down on a project which is already coming off the rails.”
Midlands Connect, which supports long-term transport projects in the region, welcomed the news.
Chairman John Peace said: “HS2 is the only shovel ready infrastructure project that can future-proof our rail network, keep rail travel affordable and bring our country together in an environmentally-sustainable way. We must now get on delivering this once-in-a-century upgrade of our rail network to level up the economy and unleash the potential of the Midlands and the North.
“HS2 is already a catalyst for huge regeneration in Birmingham city centre, now we can get on with bringing the same transformation to the areas around the other Midlands’ HS2-connected stations.”
HS2 has been contacted for comment.